When dealing with the world of gearing, it’s important to have the right tool for the right job.
At Ceratizit, the company has a unique advantage at its disposal by having all elements of designing and creating that needed tool.
“I think our biggest ability to react to the ever-changing industry climate is that we own the entire supply chain from the mines all the way through to the powder to the semi-finished goods to the end product,” said Dan Cope, vice president of sales at Ceratizit. “We like to call it mine-to-market. It’s our ability to take a raw material from the ground, being able to evaluate the characteristics, and then ultimately get the best possible solution to the market.”
That vast wealth of resources and expertise has enabled Ceratizit to produce much-needed components and tooling for the gear-manufacturing industry, according to Cope.
“With the pre-finished part, we make a lot of blanks — finished and unfinished products — for the manufacturing of gear tools,” he said. “We may sell an unfinished blank to a manufacturer that then finish-grinds the geometry of what’s needed for gear manufacturing, whether they’re hobbing or those type things. Then we provide the carbide. We provide the bulk of the manufactured tool and then the people who buy those from us actually put their grind on it. That’s one side of it.”
Private label work
Ceratizit does a lot of private label work for large manufacturers of gear-cutting tools as well as helping them with the geometry and to perfect some of their grades that they promote to the market, according to Cope. It does that by working with heavy hardened steels.
“If you think about the majority of gear manufacturing, you have a shaft; you have something that’s attached to the gear that’s in a hardened state, so we manufacture a lot of tooling that provides the performance needed to be able to manufacture those parts and pieces in utilizing a CBN or PCD, depending on the work-piece material,” he said. “From a gear standpoint, whether it’s a bevel gear or if it’s a centered steel part, which, in a lot of cases, you have with the planetary carriers — you have some of the valve controls, the synchronizing rings that are made out of powdered steel and then sintered — and then you have to manufacture or machine those parts. We provide tools and technology to be able to manufacture those type applications.”
Fast, flexible, and innovative
Being a fast, flexible, and innovative company has allowed Ceratizit to make decisions that affect the industry quickly and efficiently, according to Cope.
“We are a very large company — $1.6 billion in turnover, globally — but we act as if we are a very small company,” he said. “The streamline effect of making decisions is at the street level. I have a direct line to the board of directors to be able to react to needs and be able to utilize our R&D facilities to react quickly to a need of a customer that’s specialized and not an out-of-a-catalog situation.”
To that end, Ceratizit does an extensive amount of prototyping and engineered solutions specific to the needs of the customer, according to Cope.
“We can be fast and flexible and then utilize our expertise to be able to get that solution back to them quickly,” he said. “We’re doing a ton of work today with 3D printing, additive machining, those type things, where we’re able to manufacture tools today that were un-manufacturable in the past because we’re using this newer technology to be able to get all the tweaks and geometries into a tool that could be utilized in gear manufacturing that wasn’t presently possible with more traditional ways of working.”
3D printing technology
The use of 3D printing technology has helped keep Ceratizit on the frontlines of the industry while working to decrease its overall carbon footprint, according to Cope.
“Things are evolving, whether it’s with 3D printing or having the ability to affect the immobility view of society now and trying to get to net-zero carbon from a sustainability side — we’re working toward that, not only internally from our production standpoint but externally to either provide a green product that’s completely 100 percent recycled or to have the flexibility to be able to produce a tool quickly to satisfy a need,” he said.
Ceratizit’s expertise includes a dedicated engineering staff that has the ability to take a part print or even go onsite to study an existing application in order to look at the processes involved from the raw material stage all the way through to the final product, according to Cope. During that process, time studies are performed that may introduce new methods of working or even new types of tools that can perform at or even beyond a customer’s expectations.
“There was one application where we utilized 3D printing to do that for a customer that was building stator housing for the e-mobility side,” he said. “The multiple bores inside the stator housing were very important. We built a 3D-printed tool with multiple adjustable stations on it to be able to introduce one-shot manufacturing for the stator housing. It’s a very large tool, and if you would have manufactured it normally, it would have been too heavy to actually use in the machine tool.”
Ceratizit was able to cut a lot of weight from the final product while designing a geometry that effectively gets chips out of the way, according to Cope. This process lets the company work with e-mobility in a way to generate the part much quicker.
Cope is quick to boast about Ceratizit’s flexibility on all levels of the company, which he said makes it easier to gets things done while being the biggest key to its success as an organization, as well as prepare for a more sustainable future.
“We want to become the leader in the industry with sustainability,” he said. “We’re really trying to be a good citizen to the industry and to the world, but we also want to force our competitors’ hands to follow and try to drive some of these initiatives through the global industry.”
Ceratizit might boast an unusual name (it’s pronounced SEHR-uh-TIZ-it), but it has a long history.
It began about 100 years ago as two companies: Metallwerk Plansee and Cerametal. Cerametal worked with wear parts for the hard metal industry, while Metallwerk Plansee worked with carbine manufacturing.
Ceratizit was formed by combining Cerametal with Plansee Tizit, a spinoff of the metalworks company.
However, over that 100-year period, the Ceratizit brand didn’t actually come to market until 2002, according to Cope. Before that, the organization worked on the back end of raw materials and wear parts up until 2002, when the company wanted to get into the cutting-tool side.
“The premise was that they were doing a lot of private label work for other companies that provided finished goods with their carbide into the market, and so they said, ‘Why not just cut out the middle man? That way we can actually go to market with finished goods as well,’” he said.
More on the horizon
That move was just the beginning, and Cope said he expects Ceratizit to be more involved with the innovations available.
“With all the evolution and innovation that’s coming with high-speed or additive-type manufacturing, you’re going to see a lot of selling of powder and printing type of situations where 3D printing is going to become the norm vs. the CNC equipment down the road,” he said. “Going through that process and trying to understand what the next step or next level will involve our R&D facilities to emulate what that future’s going to look like and then be prepared for it.”
Cope also pointed out that Ceratizit will continue its goal to be a leader of sustainability, whether that’s with internal changes with its manufacturing processes or other methods.
“Some of those things may include 95 percent of our carbide that we use in our tools is recycled today, so we’re not pulling a lot of natural resources out of the Earth; we’re using the carbide that’s already available for us — reprocessing that and generating tools that we now call green tools,” he said.
As an example, Cope said Ceratizit recently introduced its “green rod” at IMTS and at a show in Europe.
“It is made from 100 percent recycled material, so we’re not utilizing any outside resources to be able to do that,” he said. “But in our manufacturing facilities, we’re using green electricity, where we’re not pulling from natural resources or from coal-burning type situations.”
That and many other innovations will help push Ceratizit into the future, according to Cope.
“We will definitely be using some of our technology to be able to keep up with the demand of what I would say is the new way of manufacturing going forward,” he said.